Target therapy includes drugs that “target” various proteins that can contribute to cancer. Unlike chemotherapy drugs that kill both healthy and cancerous cells, these drugs selectively kill cancer cells, which helps to reduce side effects. For example, imatinib mesylate (Gleevec) selectively blocks a protein that helps cancer cells grow. Other targeted treatments include gefitinib (Iressa) and erlotinib (Tarceva). Most targeted treatments are still experimental and are used along with other types of therapy. The benefits of these drugs can vary depending on a person’s response to previous treatment and overall health. Generally, targeted treatments do not have the same side effects as traditional chemotherapy. Depending on the drug and the dosage, a person may experience nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, rash and/or diarrhea.
Anti-angiogenesis target drugs
The formation of new blood vessels that feed tumors is known as angiogenesis. Some scientists think that by cutting off a tumor’s blood supply, it may be possible to starve the tumor, and prevent it from growing and spreading. Anti-angiogenesis drugs are considered experimental at this time.
Antisense target therapy
This therapy utilizes small, chemically-modified strands of DNA that block gene expression by binding to messenger RNA before it can produce a protein. Essentially, the technology acts to selectively “knock out” the production of a single protein.
Gene target therapy
This therapy is used to repair or replace damaged genetic material or add new genetic material.